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Medieval Conservation: The Example of French Woodlands

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Abstract:

Recent research across Western Europe has unearthed increasing amounts of evidence that far from being unaware of the need to protect nature, medieval people—peasants, lords, towns, and emergent states—created sophisticated normative systems to conserve a wide range of natural resources. The documents generated by such systems arguably constitute the most detailed and ecologically aware texts known from the Middle Ages. In this paper I will try to briefly set out the general character of practices that were intentionally and often explicitly geared toward the sustainable management of resources. While rural and environmental historians are familiar with such practices in particular times and places, I argue, expanding on a point recently made by Richard Hoffmann, that a greater appreciation is needed of just how pervasive and similar such goals and practices were across preindustrial Europe. One of the main goals of this paper, and the panels of which it is a part, is to make more well known to the broader community of scholars concerned with premodern Europe that in fact medieval people routinely practiced “intentional sustainability,” or as I prefer to call it in one resonant word, “conservation.” The paper will then provide specific evidence of conservation in the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century woodlands of Champagne, in northern France. A brief conclusion will point to the ways in which common property regimes, lordship, and systems of customary law could combine to make medieval conservation possible.
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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1171011_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Keyser, Richard. "Medieval Conservation: The Example of French Woodlands" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL, <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1171011_index.html>

APA Citation:

Keyser, R. "Medieval Conservation: The Example of French Woodlands" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1171011_index.html

Publication Type: Panel Paper
Abstract: Recent research across Western Europe has unearthed increasing amounts of evidence that far from being unaware of the need to protect nature, medieval people—peasants, lords, towns, and emergent states—created sophisticated normative systems to conserve a wide range of natural resources. The documents generated by such systems arguably constitute the most detailed and ecologically aware texts known from the Middle Ages. In this paper I will try to briefly set out the general character of practices that were intentionally and often explicitly geared toward the sustainable management of resources. While rural and environmental historians are familiar with such practices in particular times and places, I argue, expanding on a point recently made by Richard Hoffmann, that a greater appreciation is needed of just how pervasive and similar such goals and practices were across preindustrial Europe. One of the main goals of this paper, and the panels of which it is a part, is to make more well known to the broader community of scholars concerned with premodern Europe that in fact medieval people routinely practiced “intentional sustainability,” or as I prefer to call it in one resonant word, “conservation.” The paper will then provide specific evidence of conservation in the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century woodlands of Champagne, in northern France. A brief conclusion will point to the ways in which common property regimes, lordship, and systems of customary law could combine to make medieval conservation possible.


 
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